Most U.S. states have been under a lockdown order due to COVID-19 since mid-March, leaving millions of small business owners without income. Between February and March, retail sales fell 8.7% on average, with clothing, automotive, and furniture and home purchases seeing drops of more than 25%. As of this writing, more than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since the Coronavirus outbreak began.
Consequently, property owners and property managers are struggling, trying to handle tenant delinquencies and pay their own bills. As the rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations plateau, many business owners and employees are eager to get back to work. But are property owners, business owners, and property managers ready for their offices to reopen? How can you prepare to open your retail centers and offices safely amidst the Coronavirus pandemic?
Guidance on Reopening Across America
President Trump and the Coronavirus Task Force recently issued a three-phase approach for states to begin lifting restrictions and getting back to work. The first phase allows many businesses to reopen once the state sees a two-week drop in the number of Coronavirus-related hospitalizations. Each state must also have adequate medical equipment in place, and ample testing for residents before businesses can reopen.
Getting Back to Work: How States Are Reopening Businesses
Some state governors are already beginning Phase One, allowing businesses like restaurants, retail centers, movie theaters, sporting venues, and places of worship to reopen. However, these businesses must adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. Some enterprises may have to limit the number of patrons allowed inside the building at one time, or require both employees and clients to wear face masks.
Phase One does not allow everything to reopen. Some businesses – like bars, childcare centers, and children’s day camps – will remain closed.
Each state is approaching the crisis differently. Local governments will determine which business can open, when they can open, and how they will keep residents safe. Many states will drop their stay at home orders on May 1. Some are lifting restrictions immediately. To find out when your state will reopen, click here.
How Property Owners and Managers Can Safely Open Commercial Real Estate Centers
For CRE property owners and property managers, reopening businesses amidst a pandemic can be tricky. The pandemic’s economic impact has been severe, and we’re all ready to open the doors and start collecting income again. But the health and wellbeing of our tenants, clients, and customers is even more important.
How can we, as owners and property managers, safely reopen retail centers and office buildings while keeping everyone safe?
Protecting Employees, Customers, and Clients
We’re all concerned by the dramatic loss of income seen in the retail and business sectors over the past two months. Property owners and property managers are eager to get back to business. But keeping your tenants and their customers safe is the number one priority.
Start by following your state and local guidelines. Each state government and local municipality will provide guidance to retailers and businesses, letting them know when and how to reopen safely. If you own or manage multiple properties in several cities or states, the timing will likely be different for all of them, depending on how many Coronavirus hospitalizations and new cases your area reports.
As the owner or property manager, it’s your responsibility to comply with state health and safety guidelines. While each state is different, some universal steps will prevent the spread of COVID-19:
· Communicate with Tenants. First are foremost, communicate the state’s regulations and your own expectations to your tenants. Stress the importance of compliance: keeping everyone safe and healthy while also rejuvenating business. Let them know what you’re doing to keep business owners, employees, and customers safe.
· Maintain social distancing. Set strict guidelines allowing business owners, employees, and customers to maintain at least six feet of distance at all times. This may mean rearranging store displays, creating one-way aisles, or limiting the number of people allowed in the store at any given time.
· Increase Cleaning and Sanitation. While individual hand washing and limited exposure are the best way to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, property managers should also increase their cleaning and sanitation protocols. Make sure common areas and surfaces are disinfected often.
· Limit Showings for Potential Tenants. New tenants mean increased income, which is incredibly appealing at times like these. However, in-person showings increase the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Instead, create a virtual showing process using 3D mapping, do a video walkthrough, or find another no-contact way to show the space. If a potential renter is genuinely interested, you can schedule an in-person meeting at that time.
Resources for Property Owners and Property Managers
Undoubtedly, the world of commercial real estate has changed virtually overnight due to the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic. We face months and years of economic uncertainty. However, reopening retail and office spaces will start the economy moving again, leading us towards recovery.
If you’re a property owner, property manager, or business owner looking for resources to help you through this difficult time, click here to see a comprehensive list from the National Real Estate Investor website.
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